Russian GP…turn out the lights?

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The Singapore Grand Prix is the first night race on the Formula 1 calendar but back in August, there was some discussion of adding a third race under the lights to join both the Singapore and Bahrain grands prix.

The Russian Grand Prix will happen this weekend in Sochi for the second time in history and with a Russian driver, Daniil Kvyat, the country has a driver to cheer for. Never mind we still don’t have an American driver to cheer for on the grid at our home race while Mexico will but I agree with Gene Haas’s decision.

While the late start time might be good for UK, would another night race be something you’d like to see?

We haven’t had a wet race yet in the dark and that’s always been my concern over visibility but I do admit that the cars look stunning at night, under the light and with sparks flying.

My issue with night races are that I suspect that are far better for race attendees than for viewers at home watching via the world feed. Take Singapore for example.

With no visual markers, just the grey, artificially lit track and jersey barriers, armco and soft walls, it is hard to get a real sense of location on track. Sure, veterans will eventually learn the turns by sight and will know where the cars are but it’s not the same as day races.

Singapore is a street circuit like Monaco but I know when the cars are in Portier and when they are in St. Devote. At Singapore, it’s very hard to tell where they are save versus the odd chicane and other key landmarks which are few and far between.

Does the Bahrain circuit lend itself more to a night race and therefore purpose-built circuits will be better than street races where all you see is armco? Perhaps Russia will be more like Bahrain than Singapore?

Regardless, we head to the Russian Grand Prix this weekend and we do so knowing that the 2017 race could be in the dark. We also know that geo-political situations will be looked upon with bias one way or the other.

It was a Mercedes track, last year, and Lewis took the win with Nico right behind. It is also worth mentioning that Jenson Button did very well scoring a 4th place result and his then teammate, Kevin Magnussen, behind him. Don’t look for a repeat of that in 2015.

Last year the fastest way around the circuit was a one-stopper that showed to be 9 second quicker. There were 40 passes in total on track and Valtteri Bottas set the fastest lap of the race with 1:40.896 on the final lap.

Last year’s race showed that the compounds Pirelli brought were able to last for much of the race and with only one stop, the strategies were rather limited.

If things would have worked differently, perhaps we would have had two Russian drivers with Vitaly Petrov had he remained in the series. It’s a shame as he was pretty handy behind the wheel.

We’ve only ran one race at Sochi and I’ll give Formula One Management and the race organizers the benefit of the doubt in the capital outlay required to make it a night race…not to mention the time difference and TV viewer numbers.

Hat Tip: Reuters for the night race story

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Dapperstu

I will be cheering Alexander Rossi (USA) in Austin this year… ;)

Shaolin

They should add the las Vegas gp and make that at night, that would be an awesome sight

SamWah

Yeaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, and just THINK about the grid girls! The costumes from the casinos!

Will Irwin

Great point about how the circuit all looks the same on TV in night races. I have been at four Singapore GPs and I suppose I know the track layout fairly well but I still struggle to know what I am looking at when seeing it on TV. Have been reduced to checking the advertising boards to know “it’s the Rolex zone so we must be somewhere in turns 10-13” or whatever, which is not very satisfying. It would help if the TV feed would display the corner number/name that it is currently showing. Arguably this is not very meaningful… Read more »

Negative Camber

In the effort to keep the post short(er), I didn’t get in to my ways of curing the situation. I was thinking that race organizers could do a lot more visual elements down low to the track to make the corners more iconic and recognizable. It’s night so they could get some 10,000 lumen projectors and shine them from above down on the corners with graphics and icons. Get creative with light but keep it on track and out of driver’s eyes etc. Very achievable.

Shocks&Awe

Seriously, just paint the barriers a different color for each corner. Heck, I bet the could do it virtually, like the painted lines on a football field or Bernie’s ridiculous messages.

Paul KieferJr

We’ve only seen one race here at Sochi. I’m not even sure that we’ve memorized the turns in the daylight yet.

Lee Ferrell

I love u NC but gonna disagree about singapore… personally i view the track itself as well laid out, the corners are pretty distinctive ( just imo but don’t listen to me as my wife will tell u, i’m an idjit ), and i can see the cars specifically under the lights where hazy days and glare often rule out on other tracks. Again imo, there are a few corners that may seem a little like fillers between the larger ones but, and i know you’re gonna cringe when i say it, viewing a few times of onboard laps or… Read more »

John The Race Fan

When it’s dark, you can’t see the bear about to attack you.
– Modern American Proverb

MIE

Monaco aside, most street circuits aren’t that distinctive even in daylight. Have you forgotten the European race at Valencia. Mile after mile of identical concrete barriers.

Dave

Todd,
I have to ask… is the article’s title a thinly-veiled homage to the Teddy Pendergrass classic “Turn Off the Lights”? A handful of championship points to you if so!
I have to say, I am a sucker for the unique atmosphere night races seem to provide, but you make a good point about the track investment that would require. To make it worth it, Sochi would probably have to consider converting some of the other races it hosts into nighttime events. Not sure what kind of implications that would have for them.

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